Egoism Essay

656 WordsAug 2, 20133 Pages
Psychological Egoism is the thesis that we always act from selfish motives. It holds that all desires are egoistic desires, or else derived egoistic desires. It is a descriptive thesis (i.e. a thesis about how things are, not about how they ought to be). It must be distinguished from the normative claim that we ought only to have egoistic desires. We shall look at this latter contention, Ethical Egoism, later. Mr Lincoln once remarked to a fellow-passenger on an old time mud-coach that all men were prompted by selfishness in doing good. His fellow passenger was antagonizing this position when they were passing over a corduroy bridge that spanned a slough. As they crossed this bridge they espied an old razor-backed sow on the bank making a terrible noise because her pigs had got into the slough and were in danger of drowning. As the old coach began to climb the hill, Mr. Lincoln called out, “Driver can’t you stop just a moment?” Then Mr. Lincoln jumped out, ran back and lifted the little pigs out of the mud and water and placed them on the back. When he returned his companion remarked: “Now Abe, where does selfishness come in on this little episode?” “Why, bless your soul Ed, that was the very essence of selfishness. I should have had no peace of mind all day had I gone on and left that suffering old sow worrying over those pigs. I did it to get peace of mind, don’t you see?” Taken from Feinberg, ‘Psychological Egoism’ Distinguish further the thesis that psychological egoism is a priori (or necessarily, or analytically) true, from the thesis that it is true a posteriori (or contingently, or synthetically). A BRIEF DIGRESSION Some terminology: (i) a sentence is a priori true if and only if (iff) it can be known independently of experience (contrast: a posteriori: can only be known by experience). (ii) a sentence is necessarily true iff it

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